Lamb & Potato Stew

Meat and Potatoes. The universal comfort food. A ritual in my kitchen in the midst of cruel winters especially on days when the chilly winds clatter against the window panes, its grey and cloudy outside and inside my kitchen, meat is slow cooked long enough till it almost falls off the bone, the potatoes absorb all the flavor and the aroma of the spices permeates the atmosphere of house. A dish which evokes nostalgia of my mom’s mutton stew and of our first few years in the States.

My first tasting of lamb came in one of the ornate buffets here in Las Vegas in a mellow stew- crimson colored, cooked with carrots, speckled with herbs & tasting strongly of red wine. Since we do not consume a lot of lamb in India (mutton is more popular), we had only been roasting lamb rack ocassionally, completely oblivious of the fact how this meat would behave with spices. The tasting presented an opportunity to try it in my mum’s mutton & new potato slow cooked stouu , one in which the meat is first seared and then cooked for long good hours, often pushing lunch to evening tea time.

There is little match to the slow cooking method, for the meat slowly gives in to heat, the gelatinous flavor of the bone melts in the sauce lending it an unmatched edge over the rushed one.The key is to start ahead, much before meal time so that the stew does not miss a chance to rest for a couple of hours before serving. This stew is comforting, deeply flavorful & delicious with a earthly taste of starchy potatoes. You should give this a try before the winters go away!

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Lamb & Potato Stew

Slow cooked bone in lamb and potato stew with fresh pounded spices and yogurt.
Course Main Course
Cuisine Indian
Prep Time 15 minutes
Cook Time 4 hours

Equipment

  • Dutch Oven

Ingredients

For the Stew

  • 1 lb stewing lamb
  • 4 tbsp mustard oil , substitute with cooking oil that you like to use
  • 1 whole black cardamom
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 2 inch cinnamon stick
  • Pinch sugar
  • 1 cup onions thinly sliced
  • 8 garlic cloves
  • 2 inch fresh ginger
  • 2 tsp hot red chilli powder adjust to tolerance
  • 1/2 tsp kashmiri chilli powder
  • 2-3 small gold potatoes peeled
  • 1/3 cup plain greek yogurt slightly beaten
  • 1/2 tsp fresh grated nutmeg
  • Salt to taste

Coarsely pound together

  • 1 tbsp coriander seeds
  • 1 tbsp cumin seeds
  • 1 twig mace
  • 1/2 tsp fennel seeds
  • 2 tsp black peppercorns
  • 5 cloves

Instructions

  • Add the coarsely pounded spices to a bowl. Add the hot and kashmiri red chilli powder. Pour 1/4 cup of warm water, mix the spices into a paste and set aside.
  • In your dutch oven or any heavy bottom pot with lid, add the oil and let warm up for a few minutes until slightly smoky.
  • Add the black cardamom, cinnamom stick and bayleaf to the oil and saute for 10-15 seconds taking care not to burn the spices.
  • Next, add the sliced onions, sprinkle a pinch of sugar and let the onions brown. Keep on cooking them with stirring in between for 7-8 minutes till the onions are dark brown. This is important for color of the stew.
  • Once the onions are browned, add the lamb to the pot. Cook the lamb on medium low heat with onions for 8-9 minutes stirring continously untill you see that the lamb is browned on all sides and the edges are starting to turn dark brown.
  • Add the spice paste next, sprinkle 1 tsp of salt and mix well till the lamb pieces are covered in spices. Let the spices cook with lamb and onions for good 5 minutes. Make sure that they are not sticking to bottom. If you feel so, add a tablespoon or two of water.
  • Slowly you will see that the lamb will release its water and the contents of the pot will be slightly watery. Add 1/4 cup of hot water at this stage and cover the dutch oven.
  • Let the lamb slow cook for a low stove 2-3 hours(time depends on how big or small your pieces are as well as the quality of your meat). You will need to check time to time to make sure that nothing is sticking to the bottom, if so, add a splash of water.
  • Once the lamb is 90 percent cooked, keeping heat low, add the beaten yogurt and mix well rigrously else the yogurt will curdle. Saute the lamb with yogurt for 5-10 minutes untill you see oil bubbles on the sides of the pot. Check and adjust the salt at this stage. At this stage, lamb will be 95 percent cooked.
  • Add the potatoes to the pot, mix and cover the lid again.Let potatoes cook for 5-8 minutes or untill fork tender.
  • Once the meat and potatoes are done, take off the stove. Add nutmeg and gently mix everything well.
  • Let the stew rest for 2 hours before serving.

Rosewater & Raspberry Cake

Updated 05/06/2021

I made this cake as a 9 inch round cake and frosted it with whipped cream. An easy dessert cake best for Mothers day or take along summer bbq dessert. Fleshy in season peaches will be great in here. If you don’t get raspberries where you live, try any local berries which are sweet and tart.

Orginal Post 04/21/2014

The idea of this rosewater cake came into being about three years back when I first baked a layered cake with raspberries stuffed in between the layers and covered in floral frosting. I was a novice baker, just wanted to use a newly owned oven in the apartment and experiment. If I remember correctly, I baked it for our second or third valentine’s day and it was a hit. We instantly loved this combination and it was so fascinating to see how a strong floral extract from east and tart berries from the west, from different parts of the world can compliment each other so well and create pure, delicious magic inside the oven. I did not bake it again for many years for no reasons whatsoever.

A couple of weeks back he asked for a buttery cake, while hunting down the bakery gear, I got hold of a small bottle of rosewater at the back of the pantry and this straightforward cake recipe was born.This is such an easy recipe with simple ingredients. If not berries, peaches work great here as well.

I always find the floral notes in food a bit tricky to work with because it’s difficult to decipher how much of it could be just right. And the flavors change equations inside the oven as well so just a plain tasting or sniffing the batter would not help that much. I would recommend to use a tested rose-water brand while baking this cake. Do not pick up a new brand because then you will not be figure out how much is too much or too little.In my first attempt, the rosewater got a little strong so I reduced the quantity in the second.

This cake is neither too dense or too spongy, it has a good structure, its not too sweet and I was surprised at how robust the crumb and the inside of it came out. Floral flavors make one of the most exotic and special gifts and I am pretty sure that my mom would have loved this cake over a bunch of roses only if she lived close by. The cake will travel very well if you want to bake and drive it down to your mom’s house on mother’s day. It makes a great work or school lunchbox option.

You could fold the raspberries with the batter or add on top, I just think that they look prettier on top unless you plan to frost it. Enjoy as a tea cake or frost with whipped cream or serve with a side of whipped cream, raspberry compote and some extra berries.

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Rosewater Raspberry Cake

A buttery cake with floral and fruiy notes in each bite. Serve it as a teacake or enjoy it with whipped cream.
Course Dessert, Snack
Prep Time 20 minutes
Cook Time 35 minutes
Servings 9 inch

Ingredients

  • 2 cup all purpose flour
  • 1.25 tsp baking powder
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1/2 cup unsalted butter, softened
  • 3/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/4 cup plain full fat greek yogurt (or thick/hung curd)
  • 2 large eggs, room temperature
  • 1 tbsp rosewater (or 1 tsp rose essensce)
  • 1/2 cup whole milk, room temperature
  • 100 gms fresh raspberries or any fruit you like tossed with 1 tbsp dry flour
  • Whipped Cream for frosting

Instructions

  • Line the sides and bottom of 9 inch cake pan with parchment. Preheat oven to 350F.
  • In a medium bowl sift the flour, baking powder and salt.
  • In stand mixer bowl or another large bowl using a hand mixer, beat the butter and sugar for 2 minutes untill light and fluffy. Add the eggs, one at a time and mix till incorporated and pale and fluffy.
  • Next add the rosewater and mix again for 30 seconds.
  • Once the wet ingredients are ready, add the flour mix in 3 parts alternating with milk, finishing with flour. Mix or stir on low speed until just combined.
  • Fold the raspberries gently (so that they dont break).
  • Transfer the batter to the cake pan. Smoothen the top.
  • Bake for 30-36 minutes until a skewer comes out clean. Mine was ready at 34 minute mark. Take out of the oven and let cool in the pan 10 minutes. Transfer to a cooling rack and completely cool down.
  • Frost with whipped cream or enjoy as it is with tea. This keep well for 3 days in a fridge. Wam up a bit if you are eating as a tea cake. For the whipped cakes, bring to room temperature before serving.

Easy Cashew & Raisins Icecream (Kaju Kishmish)

Hi Friends! How have you been?

Things have been so quite here but not so much in my kitchen. Most days, we are eating fresh and home cooked, the kitchen is so busy  but other priorities in life have made me slightly busy that there is less time to set up shoots and hence the lack of posts. But I guess, sometimes in life, you need to cut the routine to see how doing nothing or something different feels. This summer I am involving myself in things which I have not done in last few years, more on that later. It is good to be away for a while. Hope you missed me 🙂 However, I will keep this space buzzing whenever I can.Meanwhile, you can catch me on Instagram & Facebook.

I grew up eating it in small grey cardboard cups which had a flip lid. You flip away the lid and a couple of chubby brown raisins stared at you on top of blushing pink with soft bits of cashews scattered in. I always used my nails to pick the raisins out first and then the paddle shaped wooden spoon to scoop the rest. One cup disappeared after another in no time, sitting under the shade of   kumquat tree in blazing indian summer heat, sweaty foreheads, dripping cream on our dresses and white foamy mustaches, oh to be a child again!

I came up with this recipe fueled by this tradition in my kitchen to come up with an ice cream recipe each summer.It came out amazing, like most homemade ice creams do. I used a subtle flavor of green cardamom but vanilla will work great also. The husband loved it.I loved it and so did our little girl who is fond of all things cashew. I hope you will love it too!

Update 10/03/2015 Recently Sinfully Spicy was included in Top 50 Blogs of India. Link here

Recipe

Soak 1 cup raw cashews for 5-6 hrs. Drain. Bring 4 cups of water to a boil, add the soaked cashews and let boil for 5-8 mins. Drain and let cool down completely. Transfer to a blender and using 1/3 to 1/2 cup evaporated milk (or full fat milk) grind the cashews to a coarse paste. 

Mix 2 cups of heavy cream with a 14oz can of condensed milk. You can add sugar(about 1/4 cup) if you want to adjust sweetness. Mix the cashews paste along with 1 tsp fresh ground cardamom. Combine well, transfer to the dish in which you want to freeze and freeze for 5-6 hours. When the mixture starts freezing and has a pudding consistency,add in handful of dry toasted cut up cashews(optional) along with 1/2 cup of golden raisins. Freeze overnight. Scoop and serve.

Matar Paneer

I always feel that I end up cooking many dishes just to re-create a special memory, securely nestled in my heart from the years gone by or from days of growing up. Sometimes the sight of the familiar ingredients at the store brings in with itself such a gush of thoughts that I won’t have anyother way except cheering myself up in the kitchen with them,cooking up a storm to recreate those flavors. Fresh peas during spring time, is one of such thing. For less than a second,the sight of exuberantly prized organic sweet peas at the grocer last week made little sense coupled with the effort required to prepare them. But then, I could not walk away without securing a pound in my cart to make some this luscious matar paneer – fresh shelled peas and soft unaged cheese in a spicy sauce redolent of sweet-smelling cardamom and sharp hints of cinnamon and cloves in contrast to the sweetness of the vegetable.

I don’t remember a single time during childhood when we ate frozen peas.Fresh peas were a winter treat and the only way. My grandmother and other women of the family, after serving lunch, geared up for dinner,pulling chairs around the takht (a very old wide wooden bench still going strong in verandah of my badi mummy’s house), settling down with cups of cardamom chai and spent few good hours to shell three or four kilos of grassy, plum pods, gossiping about the neighbors or the relatives, working with remarkable patience, a virtue that comes hard to me when I know there is a ready to use pouch inside the freezer.

When I am engrossed in such strong weaved memories, at times, it becomes difficult to tear away and lend to the present. The joy continues, the nostalgia gets compelling. When I spent about half hour over the weekend in the company of these fresh peas I got, I felt like a child again, badi mummy teasing me to lend help and just not nibble on the seeds.It was raining outside and I felt like a child again,some eighteen or twenty years back, me wearing hand knitted, red colored socks,running away with fistfuls of matar dana. All laughs, so much fun.

Then suddenly, I feel the warmth of my daughter from behind, trying to lift her body on heels to reach for the bowl of seeds that I just shelled.Her smile breaks the array of thoughts. She is like mommy.

Matar paneer is a classic north indian dish. I have always liked it on the spicy side with the creaminess limited to that from the paneer (fresh indian cheese). Each home in india has its own version of it, there is nothing wrong or right become curry are so versatile that way.The curry is naturally gluten free since paneer is a gluten free cheese. You can very easily make this recipe vegan friendly using tofu, or any other vegan substitute. I am sharing my mom’s recipe with a little bit of extra spices added in.

Printable Recipe

Matar Paneer – Fresh Peas & Indian Fresh Cheese in a aromatic and spicy tomato – onion sauce

Ingredients (Serves 2-3)

  • 1 cup fresh or frozen peas
  • 2 medium tomatoes (yield about 3/4 cup fresh tomato puree)
  • 1 fat garlic
  • 6 oz paneer (about 200 grams, homemade or store-bought, cubed, use extra firm tofu for vegan)
  • 1/4 cup mustard oil (or use olive/vegetable oil)
  • 1/3 cup onions, finely chopped
  • 2 green cardamom
  • 1 clove
  • 1/4 inch piece of dalchini (cassia bark, substitute with 1/2 inch piece of regular cinnamon)
  • 1/2 teaspoon cumin seeds
  • 2 teaspoon coriander powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon turmeric powder
  • 1 teaspoon red chilli powder (adjust to taste, substitute with 1/2 teaspoon cayenne)
  • 1/2 teaspoon kashmiri chilli powder (this lends the color not the heat, substitute with paprika)
  • salt to taste
  • 1 tablespoon fresh ginger, finely chopped
  • 1/2 cup -1 cup water (depending on the desired consistency of sauce)
  • 1 teaspoon kasuri methi, crushed between palms
  • 1/2 teaspoon garam masala (adjust to taste)
  • 2-3 tablespoon of heavy cream (optional, I did not use, skip for vegan )
  • Fresh cilantro & ginger juliennes to garnish and serve

Method

If you are using fresh peas, shell the pods. If using frozen, thaw the peas.

Blend the tomatoes along with garlic to a fine puree. Set aside.

Soak the paneer cubes in warm water. Set aside. If using tofu, dry it using paper towels, cube it and let sit.

Heat up the mustard oil in a large pot, wait till you see little ripples on the surface, add the onions along with cardamom, clove, dalchini & cumin seeds.Saute for 5-6 minutes till the onion start to turn light brown.

Add the coriander, turmeric, red chili, kashmiri chilli powder next and sauté for less than a minute. Add the blended tomatoes and reduce heat to low.Let cook slowly till you see little bubbles of oil separating on sides of the pot and the spice paste glistening. At this point, add the peas along with chopped ginger,add salt, stir to combine together with spice paste and on low heat, saute for 3-4 minutes. Add about 3/4 cup water, mix well and cover the pot with a lid. Cook for about 15-20 minutes till the peas are soft (but not mushy).Uncover and add the kasuri methi and garam masala along with paneer cubes. Stir, and again cover and on low heat, let simmer for another 10-12 minutes.

Add the heavy cream (if using) next and simmer (not boil) on very low heat for another 2-3 minutes.Once the sauce has simmered, let sit for at least 45mins -1hour or till ready to serve.

Once ready to serve, warm up the sauce and serve immediately. You can garnish with cilantro, extra cream and ginger juliennes.

Serve with rice or flatbreads.

Thanks for stopping by!

Stay Spicy!

Orange Flavored Cashew- Almond Fudge (Peda)

It was one of the most important day of my life as we drove through wide but still crowded roads due to evening traffic, long after sun down to Kashmiri Gate, to the university campus in Old Delhi to figure out if I made it to that year’s list of DCE or Delhi College of Engineering. I remember me and mom sat and waited in the car while dad walked out to check the notice board. Those fifteen minutes,that day, might have been the longest of my life, as I sat and observed the varied expressions of cheer and dismay on the faces of others coming out of the red-painted door and then walking towards the crowded parking lot. As many parents passed our car, clear among the noisy chaos of honks and shouting kin, I could hear the conversations of celebrations, as also the consoling whispers of ‘there are few more results left’. Every time those sounds touched my ears, my heart rejoiced for half a second and next moment, the random thoughts weaved an abyss against hope. I might have blinked my eyes lesser than usual, my throat felt dry and itchy but my glances just waited for dad to emerge out of that red-painted door. I could hear mom’s cell phone ringing constantly, every other relative & rest of the family calling in to check if I ‘got through’. She pretended to be normal, but I could segregate the egdy tones of anxiety when she uttered ‘pata nahi‘ (don’t know).

The engineering entrance exam system in India gets more tough each year than the actual exam itself mainly due to the exponential increase in number of takers. Colleges in big metropolitan cities are more sought after and it definitely boils down to minute differences in performance to rank you higher or not. I had been preparing for this exam for almost a year and as expected I was nervous on the result day. Badly.

It was 7:43 pm. Dad emerged out of the door with a flat face.My heart skipped a beat and I started sweating like a pig. I could feel my ear lobes turning red and my throat choking. We could not keep inside the car anymore and I forced myself and ran to him. Mom rushed after. I looked at him with deer eyes.He still kept a straight face. I don’t remember but for the first time in last fifteen minutes I would have opened my palms to clutch his sleeve. He looked at us and with the most lovely smile spreading across his face that I might have witnessed ever, he said ‘ho gaya, mithai khilao‘ (You got in, get the sweets!). Tears rolled down my eyes. Music to my ears. The world at my feet. I was through!

Mithai or sweets form an integral part of indian culture.Each occasion of life is celebrated with them.The streets and neighborhood of the country are dotted with sweet shops and if you find ever yourself stuck in a desert, you would be less than a mile away from one. ‘Peda‘ is one of the popular sweets from the ‘Uttar Pradesh’, the part of India my mother hails from and these are essentially fudgy, thick, semi soft, sweet chunks made with mava (milk solids)sugar and ghee. However, these fudgy cashew almond peda, I made are dairy free as well as need very few ingredients for preparation.My daughter loves any mithai made with cashews, so these were mainly made for her though we enjoyed them as well. The slight hints from the orange paired very well with the nuts even though the aroma of sweet green cardamom is more prominent. These could get addictive. These gluten-free, vegan balls can be an excellent after school snack. Make some and enjoy!

Printable Recipe

Glutenfree, Dairy Free & Vegan sweet fudge made with cashew and almond meal.

Ingredients (Makes 25 )

  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 1.5 cup cashew nut meal (or powdered raw cashews)
  • 1 cup almond meal (or powdered raw almonds)
  • 1/2 tsp fresh orange zest
  • 6 green cardamom pods, seeds crushed
  • 1 tbsp ghee (optional, required during kneading, use any vegan substitute)
  • 1/2 cup powdered sugar to roll

Method

In a wide, heavy bottomed pan (I use my 12″ skillet) or a kadhai, mix up the sugar and water. Set the pan on low flame and let the sugar dissolve. Stir (I use my rubber spatula) the solution once or twice while the sugar dissolves so that the sugar does not stick to bottom of the pan. Meanwhile, grease the surface that you will be using to knead with 1/2 tablespoon ghee.

Once the sugar has completely dissolved, add the cashew and almond meal to the pan. Mix everything and brace yourself for some hard work. Keep on stirring and stirring as the mix cooks on low flame. The process will be slow in the beginning and you will feel that it will take forever but do not worry. Keep on stirring, scraping the mixture on low flame, do not let the mixture stick to the sides of the skillet.

After about 20-22 minutes, you will see that the mixture starts thickening and coming together.We will shortly be getting there, once the mixture is thick, do not bother much about scraping the sides as they will be really dry. Around 24 minutes, the mixture will start resembling a soft, sticky dough and will clump up around the spatula. If you try to bring the mixture together in one place on the skillet, it will try to slowly spread (similar to how a glug of cold honey spreads on a surface). Mix in the orange zest and crushed cardamom. Put off the stove.

Immediately transfer to the greased surface and leave to cool a bit until its safe to handle.Once the dough has cooled slightly, rub a teaspoon of ghee on your hands and very gently knead the dough for 2-3 minutes. Remember that the dough needs to be warm when you knead so just wait till its safe to touch, do not let it cool down completely, else it will not knead and remain grainy.Do not press very hard as you knead else the nuts  will start oozing their oil. You can grease you hands or the dough with ghee in between if it starts feeling sticky.

While the kneaded dough is still warm, pinch small portions of it and roll into a smooth ball. Roll the balls in powdered sugar.

Once cooled, store the peda in air tight container for up to a week.

Thank you for stopping by!

Notes 

  1. The time of cooking noted in this recipe will vary if you are using any other kind of sugar than granulated, since the water content of different varieties of sugar is different.
  2. You can use any kind of flavorings – saffron or kewra (screw pine water) instead of orange zest & cardamom.

Stay Spicy!

Semolina-Almond Cake

I remember that many mornings at my badi mummy’s (grand mother’s ) house opened with a warm bowl of sooji halua, a ghee laden dessert made with toasted semolina and milk, speckled with grains of woody black cardamom. In fact,it would not be exaggerating to say that the strong,nutty aroma of toasting sooji filling the air of the house sometimes managed to pull me out of the bed early,especially on the lazy weekend mornings. With half closed eyes, I headed straight to the verandah where we usually ate breakfast . Sometimes, there were cups of chai and warm bowls of halua already waiting to be eaten, many times, the eating had to wait a bit longer, for it took a extra while to roll and deep fry pooris to go along. Yes halua – poori is exactly what I am talking about here, an immensely carbohydrate loaded meal but at the same time so comforting. Those the days when you could eat as much as you wished to.The variety of foods at our mealtimes were many.An amazingly beautiful thing in the house that I grew up in, a tradition that instilled in us the virtue of sharing and caring.In those times, childhood could absorb so much sugar, oil and calories. Much unlike now when a bowl of halua will push me a step closer to long naps during mid day, I remember playing around the aangan (back yard) for hours. Semolina is quite a popular flour of choice when baking cakes in indian homes.There were a couple of sweet as well as savory cakes that my mother baked for us using it.Most of the cakes were steamed inside the pressure cooker(for she did not own an oven then) and they came out pretty awesome.In contrast to the sugar syrup drizzle that I used in my recipe, inspired by arabic desserts, the pressure cooker cakes from my childhood were really moist and soft.They didn’t need any glaze, drizzle or makeup, as mum says. This cake is full of flavors from those days of sooji halua eating mornings.The ingredients are very few and the condensed milk and nutty almond meal makes it a lot, lot better than the actual dessert. It is quite a dense cake and a small portions will instantly make you feel full. I would really recommend not skipping that sugar syrup to cut down the sweet else it may taste dry.I do not soak the cake in entire quantity of the syrup and save some to drizzle just when serving. It keeps the cake moist just when you are about to enjoy it. You can substitute any nut powder of choice here and make it. Also, I found that this cake travels and packs really well,once it cools down completely and you cut the slices, they can be packaged for lunch boxes, care packages and on the go snacks.Serve with black or green tea. Printable Recipe

Ingredients (Makes a 9″ round)

  • 1 no 14oz sweetened condensed milk can
  • 10 tablespoon unsalted butter, melted + more for the cake pan
  • 1/2 cup +1 tablespoon whole milk, room temperature
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 + 1/3 cup coarse semolina (not the instant,quick cooking kind)
  • 1+1/3 cup almond meal
  • 1 teaspoon green cardamom powder (from 5-6 pods)
  • 1/3 cup raw almonds for top (optional)

For the Sugar Syrup

  • 10 tablespoon crystal sugar (I use raw)
  • 6 tablespoon water
  • 1/4 teaspoon green cardamom powder (from 2-3 pods)

Notes

  1. I use ready made almond meal, if you plan to make your own, do not crush the blanched almonds to a point that they release their oils.Let there be a coarse sandy texture.
  2. This cake does not rise much. So if you want a high rise cake, use a smaller dish to bake it.

Method

For the Cake

Preheat oven to 350 F. Butter and flour a 9 “X 2” round cake pan. I use parchment paper lining for easy handling.

In a large bowl, mix whisk together condenser milk, melted butter, milk and baking powder to smooth slurry. Add semolina and almond meal to it along with cardamom powder. Mix together to combine to a smooth batter. Do not over mix.

Transfer the batter to the cake pan. Scatter the raw almonds on top. Bake for 35 minutes or so or until a skewer comes out clean and the edges are nice and golden brown.

Once the cake is baked, take it out and drizzle liberally with the sugar syrup (recipe below) while still warm.

I sometimes, reserve 1/4 cup or so of the syrup to be used for instant moistening when serving the cake (optional)

Let cool completely. Slice and serve.

For the Sugar Syrup 

While the cake is baking, in a small sauce pan, combine the sugar and water. Cook for 10-12 minutes on low medium heat until the sugar dissolves and the syrup has thickened a bit. Put the stove off and add cardamom powder to the syrup.Keep the syrup warm. Drizzle the warm syrup on the cake as soon it comes out of the oven.

Dal Makhani – Creamy Lentils



You know I have made these lentils quite a few times in last months.We cooked and we ate, my instagram feed has showcased it a couple of times. But, somehow it is only now in the last week or so of winter that I am getting around to post it. Well, they say better late then never. Right? So while the weather is still cold and snowy make it. Put that pressure cooker to work (or the slow cooker if you want) because I have included both methods in the recipe.

Dal Makhani literally translates to “buttery lentils”. It is a hugely popular dish in the punjabi cuisine.Cooked with whole black urad lentils, red kidney beans, spices and butter, it was not a everyday thing growing up. It was a dish reserved for special occasions. Mom would make it on only on birthdays, anniversary and days of family gatherings. And I can very well understand why.These creamy, melt in the mouth lentils, they need a bit of work. It’s not your usual dump in the pressure cooker and doze off kind of lentils. For that smoky, creamy taste, a rich baghaar (tempering) needs to be prepared. The elements of the tempering are slow roasted on open fire for that superlative yet subtle aroma of spices, sweet – acidic hints of tomato, smoky notes of roasted onions and satiating comfort of butter & dairy. It needs planning and patience. You learn from experience when the lentils have cooked just about right. It took me some time to get a hang of it. Now, after so many years of making it, I can just tell by the look of them if they are perfectly cooked or not.

In our house and indian culture in general, when people host dinners, hospitality is showcased by serving something away from the usual home meals.It is one of mom’s signature recipe.It’s one of the recipes which she has cooked for dozens of guests in our family over the years and handed the method to many. When she visited me few months back here, I saw her making it, the eyeballing the ingredients come naturally to her, she didn’t pick a measuring spoon if I tell you the truth.

It is definitely not your everyday food. It is calorie laden and full of concentrated fats. But it so good. Oh boy! However, the way we prepare it in our homes is different from the restaurant versions, less use of dairy, less sweet, more spicy. Here, you taste the lentils, their creaminess and the warmth of ginger & kasuri methi (dried fenugreek leaves) in each bite. Many people mash or churn the lentils to a baby food consistency, you can do that if you want but I like to keep that extra bite. It works better with my texture -in- food kind of  crazy family.

A lot of steps in this recipe can be done a day ahead. You can cook the lentils, refrigerate them and temper then when ready to serve. You can fire roast the onions and tomatoes one day ahead too. If you plan slightly, it makes the process quick and easy. Serve the lentils with hot off the griddle rotis (flatbreads) or warm fluffy naan and a salad.

Ingredients  (Makes 3-4 servings)

Cooking the Lentils

  • 1/2 cup whole black urad dal (lentils)
  • 2 tbsp red kidney beans
  • 2 tbsp ghee
  • 1 tbsp finely chopped ginger (from 1/4″ piece)
  • 1 fat garlic clove, chopped
  • tejpatta (bay leaf)
  • 1/2″ cinnamon stick
  • 1 black cardamom (skip if not available)
  • 1/4 tsp hing (asafoetida powder)
  • 3-4 cups water
  • 1/2 tsp salt

For the Baghaar (Tempering)

  •  1 medium onion (~yield 1/2 cup when blended )
  • 3/4 teaspoon cumin seeds
  • 2 large tomatoes (~yield a little more than 1/2 cup when blended)
  • 4 tablespoon oil(any neutral)
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1/2 teaspoon kashmiri chilli powder (or paprika)
  • 1/2 teaspoon red chilli powder (or cayenne, adjust to taste)
  • 2″ fresh ginger shoot, finely chopped
  • 2 teaspoon kasuri methi (dry fenugreek leaves, available at indian grocery stores )
  • 1/4 teaspoon garam masala
  • 1/4 teaspoon amchoor (dry mango powder or squirt fresh mime juice at the end of cooking)
  • 1/8 teaspoon freshly ground nutmeg
  • 2-3 tablespoon butter 
  • 2-3 tablespoons heavy cream (or more depending on how creamy you want, optional)
  • Cilantro to garnish

Method

Cooking the lentils  (This can be done a day ahead)

Stove Top Method 

Soak the lentils and kidney beans in enough water for atleast 8-10 hours. Soaking the lentils reduces the cooking times and gets rid of inedible enzymes in them so it’s a important step. Drain the lentil and beans, add the kidney beans to a small pot of water and let boil for 20 minutes separately.Then add them along with lentils to a pressure cooker along with all the ingredients listed under ‘cooking the lentils’. Pressure cook the lentils on medium heat for 2-3 whistles, then reduce to low and let cook for about 15-20 minutes. Put off the stove and then let the pressure release. Open the pressure  cooker lid and with the help of a spoon, pick and discard the bay leaf, cinnamon and cardamom. Mash the hot lentils and beans. Decide how mushy or chewy you want them. If you feel that the lentils are slightly tough to mash, pressure cook for another 1-2 whistles on medium. You should easily be able to mash the lentils with a spoon. If not, let cook a little more.

Slow Cooker Method 

Add the cooked beans along with lentils to slowcooker along with all the ingredients listed under ‘cooking the lentils’. Set to cook for 8-10 hours.Once cooked, pick and discard the bay leaf, cinnamon and cardamom.With the help of a spoon, mash the hot lentils and beans. Decide how mushy or chewy you want them.Let sit.

For the Tempering 

While the lentils are cooking, fire roast the onion and tomatoes. Roast them till the skins are charred. I use a small perforated pan but you can roast them on the stove directly. Once roasted,let cool and  peel off the skin of onion and using the food processor, make a paste. Try not to add water while making the paste. Separately, make a paste of tomatoes too.Set aside. (These pastes can be made a day ahead).

In a pot or kadhai(indian wok), heat up the oil on medium heat. Add the onion paste along with cumin seeds and let cook on medium heat till the paste is nicely golden brown. Next add the minced  garlic. Saute for another 30 seconds or so. Then, add the tomato paste along with red chili powder and chopped ginger. Cook the tomatoes for about 8-10 minutes on low heat till you see the fat starting to separate on sides and the color darkening to deep red. At this point, add the mashed lentils to the pot.Adjust the salt and also add some water if you feel that the lentils have thickened in due time. I add about 3/4 cup water. Adjust depending on the desired consistency of the lentils.Reduce the heat to low and let simmer for about 20-25 minutes. The lentils will thicken up and the flavors will develop.

Once the lentils have simmered, add the kasuri methi, garam masala, nutmeg, butter and heavy cream (if using) and let simmer(not boil) for another 10 minutes.

Let sit for atleast 2-3 hours before serving. They get better as they sit.

Garnish with chopped cilantro, green chillies or ginger and serve warm with rotis (flatbreads).

Enjoy & Thanks for stopping by!

Gud -Atte Ka Halwa (Whole Wheat Flour & Jaggery Pudding)



The winter season back home always bought with itself a different feeling than the sun -lit mornings I wake up to here in the Valley.I ponder for few minutes and those foggy mornings & biting chilly winter winds come hovering in my mind, that peak of the cold season spread over few days at the end and start of another year which forced enough reasons to wear multiple layers of clothes, those endless cravings of rich, heavy food and the countless cups of hot beverages that comforted me before darting out of the home to get to work. I often recall those evening trips to crappy street food joints to carelessly stuff on piping hot vegetable momos and egg rolls without any guilt or doubt. I remember those cloyingly sweet adrak(ginger) chai & frothy coffee which I snuggled within my palms on cold weekend mornings, lazily fliping through the newspaper on the couch. Suddenly all I can feel is the warmth of those memories in my heart.

What is your fond winter memory? A warm bowl of soup caressing your numb fingers or a strong cup of coffee to relax your clattering teeth? The silence that wraps the streets of neighborhood at five in the evenings or the mellow sun already preparing to call it a day mid-afternoon? The crisp winds which feel the chilliest on the tip of the nose or the beautiful grey that surrounds the snow days?The beholding sight of snow sculptures outside or the beauty of the flickering fireplace inside?

I recall that badi mummy (my grandmother) would often feed us this smooth and rich atte ka halwa during these winter months, sometimes to soothe our sore throats, other times just as a quick after meal dessert . There we sat on a hand-woven couch in the veranda, wrapped in cozy layers of thin shaleen razais (velvet quilts) and oiled hair, clutching stainless steel katoris (bowls) and spooning this comfortingly warm, golden brown pudding into our tummies.She insisted that nothing could benefit the body more than grains & ghee.This halwa is indeed wholesome – whole wheat flour is slow roasted in ghee till its turns glistening golden then sweetened with gud(jaggery), resulting in a rich concoction few spoons of which will instantly make you feel full.

The main ingredient here is atta (durum whole wheat flour) and a fine grind is what gives the halwa a smooth & velvety texture.In case you have some atta leftover from that package of durum wheat flour you bought to make rotis, this is another recipe for you to try. Gud or jaggery, an unrefined sugar made from boiling date, sugar cane or palm juice is an extremely popular sweetener used all over India. It is considered a benefiting to the body in Ayurvedic medicine and is available in blocks, loaves or powdered form.The unique mild taste of jaggery adds a taste comparable to molasses and a light caramel color to the dishes.The color & the sweetness of this halwa depends mainly on the content of molasses in it.

You can ration the quantity of the halwa you eat & serve but I suggest not reducing the amount of ghee when making this recipe else the halwa loses its rustic appeal and gets chewy. It is supposed to be enjoyed in less quantities but essentially with the richness from all that ghee.I like my halwa  mildly sweet and the amount noted in the recipe perfect for that. You can adjust the quantity of jaggery if you like.

Printable Recipe 

Ingredients (Serves 6)

  • 3/4 cup ghee (homemade or store-bought)
  • 2 cloves
  • 1 cup atta (whole wheat flour)
  • 1 +3/4 cup water
  • 1 cup jaggery, powdered (I scrape jaggery from the block using a sharp knife. Jaggery is easily available in indian/pakistani stores.Use 3/4 cup raw sugar if you cannot find jaggery)
  • scant 1/2 tsp green cardamom powder
  • Nuts & Raisins to serve (optional)

Method

In a heavy bottomed pan or kadhai, heat the ghee on a medium low heat till it melts. Once the ghee has melted, add the clove and wait till it crackles. Next, add the flour and roast on medium- low heat, stirring constantly until the wheat flour gets golden brown colour and you smell a nutty aroma.Do not rush this step else the flour will remain raw.It should take about 10-12 minutes and you will see  golden brown, glistening syrup like melted ghee & flour in the pan.

Meanwhile, on the second stove, in a sauce pan, heat water on high.Put off the stove. Wait for 1-2 minutes. Add jaggery to the warm water and stir until the it completely dissolves. If you have broken jaggery from the block and the big chunks are taking time to dissolve, heat up the water a little bit (but do not let it boil). Let sit near to stove.

Once the wheat flour has turned dark brown and it has roasted nicely,reduce heat to low and very carefully pour in the jaggery water into the roasted wheat-flour. It will splutter so be careful. Add the cardamom powder as well.

On low heat, stir quickly and continuously (to avoid lumps) and cook for a minute or less until the mixture turns smooth.Once you add the water, the mixture will immediately cup up and increase in volume.Do not cook for long time else the halwa will thicken and turn dry. Pick the cloves and discard.

Mix in the nuts and raisins (if using ) and combine.

Serve the halwa warm or at room temperature.

Enjoy & Thanks for stopping by!

 

Kaju Biscuit – Buttery Cashew & Cardamom Cookies (Eggless)



Memories tied to food is a wonderful thing, isn’t? I say it more often than not but I am an emotional eater. I get bouts of voracious eating depending on if I feel happy or sad that day. Sometimes I just cook and eat solely because that food is supposed to be associated with the season,or only coz a bowl of warm kheer (rice pudding) will see me through that dull, gloomy day or because I got to know about it when I chatted with mom or some aunt in the family last week. You can categorise these cookies as a baking activity that happened on such a whim. I spoke to mum the other evening discussing the picky food habits of my daughter and she happened to mention if I have tried feeding her ‘bakery wale biscuits‘ with milk.

All along mixing the dough, the only thought that rattled in my mind was how these should taste of cashew predominantly & not just flour and sugar, just like original ones from a little bakery with blue & white candy cane style painted walls near my house in Delhi.

Ingredients(Makes about 4.5 dozen)

  • 3/4 cup cashew meal (I used ready-made cashew meal from Trader Joes you can grind raw cashews to a (not very fine) powder at home if you do not get ready made)
  • 1.5 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1.25 cups confectioners sugar/castor sugar
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1/4 tsp baking soda
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 5 green cardamom pods, break open & powder the seeds
  • a generous pinch of fresh grated nutmeg
  • 10 tbsp cold unsalted butter, cut into cubes
  • 1/2 cup finely chopped raw cashews
  •  1/4 cup oil (any neutral oil will work)
  • 2 – 5 tbsp cold milk (just so the dough comes together, I used 3.5 tbsp)
  • Cashew bits for top (optional)

Method

In a bowl, mix cashew meal, flour, sugar,baking powder, soda & salt together. Dump the flour mix in a food processor fitted with the metal blade. Add the cardamom & nutmeg. Add the butter cubes. Pulse for a minute or so till the butter becomes pea sized.

Remove the metal blade and fit the dough blade in the jar. Add the 1/2 cup finely chopped cashews. Add the oil. Start the processor and start adding cold mix 1/2 tbsp at a time till the dough just comes together. Stop. Open the lid and take out the dough on a clean surface. The dough will be slightly sticky & loose but that’s okay. Knead gently with dry hands for a minute or less and bring it together. Divide into two portions. Wrap the dough portions in plastic/cling film. Make sure that the cling film is large enough since we will be rolling the cookies later in it. With the help of your palm, flatten each wrapped dough portion. Refrigerate for at least 30-35 minutes or till firm. Now, if you plan to bake them later, you can freeze one or both of the dough halves.

Once the dough is firm, roll the flattened dough still wrapped in the cling film to a square sheet about 1/4″ thick. After rolling, refrigerate the rolled out dough again since the heat from your hands and rolling will melt the butter.

Preheat oven to 300F. Line cookie sheet with parchment/ wax paper. You might need a couple of  baking sheets or you can bake in batches.

Once the rolled dough is firm, using a sharp knife, cut very small squares (about 1/4″ by 1/4″) since these cookies will spread quite a bit while baking. Try to cut as evenly sized squares as possible. Press some cashew bits on top and arrange the squares about 2″ apart on the baking sheet. Refrigerate again for 20-25 minutes.

If you do not want to roll the dough, pinch small portions of the dough, shape into balls and press few cashew pieces on top.

Bake the refrigerated cookies in the preheated oven for 20-25 minutes till the cookie bases start & edges start turning golden brown and the top cashews changes color. I like my cookies slightly brown so I baked them a few minutes more, about 22 minutes.

Let cool completely on the sheet before storing them in air tight containers for up to 3 weeks. Serve with hot chai.

Murgh Korma – Chicken in Cashewnut & Cream Sauce



A rich and aromatic dish, korma originally belonged to the shahi dastarkhwans (royal kitchens) of Mughal emperors. Deep rooted in aristrocasy, the mughlai cuisine, thus, is redolent of sweet-smelling, unique spices,delicate herbs, liberal use of ground nuts & dried fruit as well as exotic ingredients like saffron & rose petals in cooking.Dating back to the era of invasions and subsequent period of  rule by the Mughals, indian cuisine, particularly north indian evolved and embraced the said style of cooking ranging from extremely spicy to mild curries,rice preparations and bread making.

With addition of ghee, nut pastes and dairy (mava (milk solids) /milk/ cream), mughlai cuisine is not your everyday fare. It is once in a while thing in our kitchen but something which we look forward to at mealtime.Those are the days when we don’t care about calorie counting or healthy eating. Nothing can beat the indulgence of soaking up all of that nutty sauce in yeasty naans or ladling it over hot steaming basmati.Nothing compares to the comfort that such hearty food brings.

The most important thing to be kept in mind when preparing mild curries is that you cannot go overboard with your selection of ingredients.That regal flavor of korma sauce needs deft proportions keeping in mind that one ingredient does not overpower the other. On those rare three or four occasions in a year when we dined out at the Karims, a place nestled in lanes of the Jama Masjid in Purani Dilli (Old Delhi), a restaurant with great history and luscious mughlai food delicacies, dad always fondly remarked how perfect this dish was done there ,a single morsel of the sauce tasting of tang from yogurt with pleasant richness from the nuts & dairy and finishing notes of warmth from cardamom, he said.I clearly remember that korma there had this distinct hint of kewra(screw pine essence) and with a simple jeera pilaf, it was all you could want at that particular time and day in your life.

It took a few attempts to come up with this recipe keeping in mind those expectations and the memories.I do not claim to taste like restaurants, but this recipe is definitely a keeper. It came out pretty good, if I say so myself and we really enjoyed it.

I use a bit of  turmeric in mainly for the color and to enhance that hue,I finish the sauce with saffron infused in milk at the end.If you prefer more of a whitish korma, skip the turmeric and just add the saffron strands (without soaking).Another unusual thing in my recipe is the addition of kasuri methi (dried fenugreek leaves), a flavor which I really enjoy in creamy curries, you can skip if you like.

Ingredients (Serves 2-3)

Marination

  • 1.25 lb chicken thighs, boneless & skinless, cut into bite size pieces (see notes)
  • 1/2 tbsp fresh lemon juice
  • 3 tbsp plain whole milk hung yogurt (not greek, see notes)
  • 3/4 tsp garam masala
  • scant 1/2 tsp white pepper powder
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced

For the Sauce

  • 3 tbsp oil (any neutral oil)
  • 4 cloves
  • 5-6 green cardamom
  • 1/2″ cinnamon stick (see notes)
  • 1/4 tsp shahjeera (caraway seeds)
  • 2 small blades javitri (mace,a really strong spice, a little goes a long way)
  • 1 large tejpatta (indian bay leaf)
  • 3/4 cup chopped yellow/white onion
  • 1.5 tsp fresh garlic, chopped
  • 1.5 tsp fresh ginger, chopped
  • 2-3 Thai bird green chillies, chopped (adjust to tolerance)
  • 1 tsp coriander powder
  • scant 1/4 tsp turmeric powder
  • 6 tbsp raw broken cashews (or 5 tbsp whole cashews)
  • 2 tbsp melon seeds (skip if not available)
  • 2/3 cup plain whole milk hung yogurt (not greek)
  • 2-3 tbsp ghee
  • 1/2 cup-3/4 cup water (depending on how thick/thin you want the sauce)
  • 1/2 tsp kasuri methi (dried fenugreek leaves, optional)
  • salt to taste
  • 5-6 tbsp heavy cream (I quantity can up to 1/2 cup, depending how how rich you like)
  • a generous pinch of good quality saffron (crushed between palms to fine dust),soaked in 1 tbsp warm milk
  • 1/4 tsp green cardamom powder
  • 1/2 tsp sugar
  • 2-3 tbsp golden raisins
  • Chopped cilantro for garnish

Notes

  1. I like to use dark chicken meat when making curries but you can go ahead and use chicken breast in this recipe too. Even bone in chicken will work.Just remember to adjust the cooking time so that the meat dosent dry out or remain uncooked.
  2. Hung yogurt is nothing but yogurt tied up in a cheesecloth/muslin and hung for 30-40 minutes to let its water drain.
  3. Indian cinnamon is very sharp as compared to western sweet cinnamon. If using the latter, go ahead and add a bit more.
  4. If you prefer more of a whitish korma, skip the turmeric and just add the saffron strands (without soaking in milk) at the end.

Method

Wash the chicken pieces and pat dry using a paper towel. Mix up lemon juice, 3 tbsp yogurt, garam masala, pepper powder, salt, ginger & garlic in a small bowl to a thick paste and rub this paste over the chicken. Marinate the chicken for atleast 4 hours or preferably overnight, refrigerated.

When ready to cook the korma, takeout the chicken from the refrigerator and let sit on the kitchen counter. Soak the cashews and melon seeds (if using) in 1/2 cup water for 10 minutes. Drain and discard the water.

In a heavy bottomed pot or kadhai, heat up the oil on medium high. Add the cloves,cardamom,mace, shahjeera, cinnamon, tejpatta to hot oil and let the whole spices crackle, about8-10 seconds or till you smell an aroma.

Next add the onions, ginger and garlic and saute for 3-5 minutes until the onions starts to turn light brown. Add the soaked cashews and melon seeds(if using) next along with green chillies. Saute for 2-3 minutes. Reduce the heat to very low now and add the coriander, turmeric along with 2/3 cup hung yogurt. Do not stir immediately else the yogurt will curdle. Wait for atlas a minute and then slowly stir around to mix yogurt with everything else in the pot.Cook the yogurt along with the masala for 5-7 minutes on low heat until you see oil separating on the sides.Put the stove off, pick out the bay leaf & cinnamon,about half of the cloves & cardamom and tip rest of the contents into a blender. The mixture is going to be hot so wait for 10-15 minutes before you start blending it.Blend (do not use water if possible during blending).I do not make a very smooth paste, you could decide the texture of the sauce at this point).

Meanwhile,in the same pot or another pot, heat up the 2-3 tbsp ghee on medium. When the ghee is hot enough, start searing the marinated chicken on both sides.You do not need to brown but a light sear is just about enough.  You could do this is batches. Once all the chicken is seared, add all of it together along the blended sauce to the pot. Stir around on and cook on medium- low heat. The chicken will render its moisture and fat as it cooks and the sauce will thicken and deepen in color.Let cook till the chicken is about 95% cooked, about 6-8 minutes.

Next, add the water depending on the desired consistency  of sauce (I add 1/2 cup water)along with crushed kasuri methi. Check and adjust the salt. Let come to a boil on medium. Next add the cream, saffron infused milk, cardamom powder, sugar and raisins. Let simmer (not boil) for 8-10 minutes on very low heat. Once simmered, put off the heat and let sit covered for 2 hours.

Garnish with chopped cilantro and serve.